I’m glad that Aoi is making the best out of being a defender. Sure, it’s not the place that he wants to be, but he’s trying to improve himself so that he can still be valuable for the team. Is he currently valuable to the team? I would definitely say no… He’s definitely an easy target if people are looking for a weak link. I guess that’s just what happens when they recruit someone who is basically re-learning how to play soccer.
This week Aoi takes Takeshima and Anri’s suggestion to incorporate some part of Kuribayashi’s play style into his own. After studying the videos Coach Nozomi provides, Aoi is able to recognize that Kuribayashi is continually moving his head and looking around. And surprisingly! He picked up on the thing that (at least) Anri suggested! The biggest downside is that he doesn’t really understand the point of looking around. So, he spends the first practice match of this episode frantically spinning his head around as if he’s trying to find a bug that’s just flying around him. He’s not keeping his eyes on the ball or the individuals with the ball which in turn makes it very easy for him to lose the ball and for everyone to just push past him. And there are a few people on the team that recognize what he is trying to do… but the rest of the team? Well, it makes sense as to why they would be mad at him. But with all of this, Aoi does not earn himself a spot as a starter or on the bench.
Now if this was only a couple of episodes ago, I fully would have expected Aoi to throw a huge fit over this decision. Good for him for having some character development, or rather good for him for recognizing that in his current state he’s not ready to be on the field yet. And, as he mentioned to Tachibana, there is a lot for him to learn on the sidelines. Instead he decides to sulk off on a bench and eventually asks Anri, who approaches him first, for some advice. Anri, wanting to become a future manager of a team is super excited for the opportunity so she gives him a familiar drill. But rather than just juggling the ball, she distinctly tells him to spot something when he’s looking around. It’s easy to just move your head and do the motion, but by spotting a petal, a leaf, a pebble etc it starts to train your eyes to look for something. Is that going to be a smooth transition to the field? Honestly, I don’t know but I’m glad that someone is able to break things down a little bit more for him.
But boy oh boy, does it spark a little bit of romantic drama. And to be honest I hope it doesn’t become a major pain point later on. On the one hand we have Anri acknowledging that Aoi is cute, but quickly brushes those thoughts outside of her mind. But that doesn’t change the fact that Hana likely became jealous when seeing the two of them together. Now, I do believe part of that is because she was thinking about Aoi while having the conversation with Kuribayashi. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I fully believe that Anri, like Hana, can be a valuable person in Aoi’s journey, I just don’t want Hana, Aoi, Kuribayashi, and Anri to get involved in some romantic drama. But I am curious to know how Kuribayashi benefits from Hana’s food.
But outside of Aoi and his growth… The Esperion B team is… really not looking too hot. They are in relegation which essentially means that if they do not perform well they will be bumped to a lower level league. And quite frankly, there is just too much pride to let that happen. Tachibana seems to be taking this the worst though. He places the blame on himself for not being able to score more. This weighs heavily on him, so much so that he says that he wants to become like Aoi. The two have a lot of similarities that come out in this episode, but the biggest difference is that Tachibana internalizes all of this whereas Aoi expresses things externally. Plus, when Tachibana looks at the past mistakes, Aoi takes a different perspective of “We lost this match, so it is on me to make sure that we win the next one”. And honestly, I really enjoyed hearing all the non-promoted players talk about how they perceive the matches! Whether they place the blame on themselves or hide behind others, or whether or not they move on from the mistakes of the game and look to improve for the future. Hooray for seeing other characters !!
And speaking of seeing other characters… It looks like the next game Esperion is playing is against Musashino which is currently the top team in the league and that’s probably not the best development given their low standing. But on the other side they are also going to play against Nakano and Kaneda, individuals who were also at try-outs. And their reactions are very different. Nakano is super stoked to play against the tryout trio and see their growth. During the tryouts I remember really liking Nakano because even though he was trying really hard, he recognized where his limits were… and even then he really tried to help out Aoi as much as he could! On the flipside Kaneda is practically fuming at the sight of the trio. Instead he blames them for him not making the cut and even more how on earth could Aoi beat him in the tryouts? Next week is going to be really intense between the two teams and I can’t wait!